Students Wanting Answers on NYC DOE Mandates– New Virtual Option
By Phoebe Grace Aseoche
Published January 27, 2022
Updates on the New York City Department of Education’s new virtual plan and Mayor Adams’s plan to keep schools open despite the surge of Omicron cases.
TYWLS updates and new mandates according to the new semester and post-pandemic school year. What happened to Enrichment?
The impact of the NYC Walk Out and what TYWLS students have to say about it.
Update on NYC DOE
As New York City students enter the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year, many events have occurred solely on the adaptation of a new system coming back from virtual learning. There has been a mix of opinions on whether or not students should transition back into virtual learning given the new development of the Omicron strain and it spreading faster than previous COVID-19 strains. The surge of cases, and requirements of returning to school if exposed, has drastically changed students' attendance. From a high school senior’s perspective, many have been concerned with mid-year reports being sent out to colleges. Due to the missed days and absences, will colleges be lenient in their admissions or could it impact rising college freshmen’s future?
In late September and early November, schools continued to learn to function on uncertainty as schools patiently waited for further instructions from the NYC DOE. Over the 2021 summer, teachers have been preparing and basing their daily lessons on the possibility of absent students and have been planning on distributing shared materials that could lead to an outbreak. Precautions were put into place for contact tracing: when entering a building students need to show their filled out health screening surveys (temperature, exposure, symptoms), mask guidelines (can take a mask break in the hallway with 6ft distance), social distancing through systems in hallways, signing in and out of classrooms (bathroom, visiting), hand sanitizers on each table and near entrances and exits, and take-home testing kits.
Recently, the NYC DOE has released mandates on COVID-19 testings held at school as well as guidance to students who’ve been exposed. Originally, when a student was exposed to COVID-19, the quarantining period was 14 days. However, the DOE has recently updated its guidelines: “The isolation period for K-12 students with a positive COVID-19 test result has been shortened to five days from ten days” (DOE Website). Students are able to return if:
The student isn’t experiencing any symptoms (cough, fever, loss of senses, etc) or improvement within 24hrs of prescribed medication.
IMPORTANT: “Must wear a well-fitting mask such as a KN95, KF94, or a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask on Days 6–10.”
If you have siblings that are below the age of 4 and test positive for COVID-19, they MUST quarantine for 10 days. The NYC DOE has clearly stated that students who’ve completed their isolation period and have gotten a negative test result aren’t required to show their test results.
Any child in an LYFE, 3-K or Pre-K classroom that was exposed but does NOT get tested for COVID-19 can return after completing a 10-day quarantine.
Children who are at least 2 years old in LYFE, 3-K, and Pre-K only need to quarantine for five days if they are symptom-free, have a negative test, and are able to wear a well-fitting mask through Day 10. This has been shortened to ten days.
RAPID TESTING TAKE-HOME KITS
If you are unable to access a testing site near you or can’t due to personal reasons, schools and public areas including your closest post office are distributing rapid testing kits. Thanks to the Biden Administration, who’s bought “One Billion Tests to Give to Americans for Free”, (White House Website) families are given two tests that generate results in just 15 mins. According to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “self-tests are one of many risk-reduction measures” and are conveniently easier to access.
The Biden Administration has taken the initiative and has addressed their empathy in giving the public a faster response in urgent care, safety precautions, and their plan to combat the spread of COVID-19. With the help of Dr. Fouchi, an American physician-scientist and immunologist serving as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, the public has been reassured on the government's awareness of the prolonged challenges of the pandemic.
Update on TYWLS Community
For the past few weeks, TYWLS News has updated the TYWLS community weekly on the number of COVID cases our school has both in percentage and in the ratio of our school's population. This email also includes the attendance percentage. A screenshot of the most recent update is displayed below. A helpful resource for those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are unsure about the steps following an exposure.
To find out more or to stay updated on the TYWLS’s current active COVID-19 cases, please look out for emails from TYWLS News.
POSITIVE EXPERIENCES OF THE 2021-2022 SCHOOL YEAR SO FAR
Earlier this February, MS and HS students were asked to fill out a survey on their thoughts of their first semester into the 2022 school year post-pandemic. Collectively, most MS students were grateful to be back to school in person and reconnect with their friends and teachers. Due to last year’s academic options, students felt less social and connected since they were in different environments. To be in school learning, instead of learning at home, was more beneficial to them and students were more productive. There were a few wholesome responses from 6th, 7th, and 8th graders:
Maeve Tartaro (6th): “I like that we are changing classes every period now instead of staying in one classroom for multiple periods.”
Anonymous (7th): “I got to reconnect with some of my friends, I got to meet new amazing teachers and they helped me get my grades up.”
Briana Marin (8th): “Many things, being able to connect with others and much more. Maybe also gym class in the gym.”
When high schoolers were asked the same question, many found enrichment (9th period) helpful to work on unfinished projects, classwork and making up assignments to start the year out strong. One of the purposes of Enrichment was to aid students in school work. Although enrichment was taken out of our schedules in the second semester, regular class instruction has been increased by 2 minutes with passing time between classes from 2 minutes to 3 minutes so that students have enough time to travel from one class to another. Another highlight pointed out by high schoolers has been the emotional support that they’ve been able to gain from both friends and guidance counselors. Our supportive TYWLS guidance counselors, Emily Bianco (MS and HS) and Gayathri Iyer's (MS) are constantly offering support and availability to listen to students. One takeaway from the past semester has been the anxiety and overwhelming feeling of being back in school as well as jumping into content at a fast pace than virtual learning. Feel free to email and stop by for any support or encouragement! There were a few wholesome responses from 9th and 10th graders:
Sal S. (9th): “Having more understanding teachers and being able to see people in person.”
Anonymous (10th): “Spending time with friends, seeing teachers in real life, and learning in person.”
NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES THE 2022 SCHOOL YEAR SO FAR
This school year hasn’t been the best at easing back into schoolwork, meeting new teachers, and having a regular day at school. For those who commute to school must get back into the habit of waking up early to attend school. TYWLS recognizes how challenged, sleep-deprived, and anxious students were as they were getting back to their school lives. Although students are patiently waiting for schools to completely normalize, the reality is that COVID-19 will always be lingering.
Teachers have been incredible at being lenient with deadlines and empathizing with the realities of learning with COVID-19. Here are a few concerns from MIS students:
Anonymous (7th): “It has been a bit stressful managing all of the work and homework but I am adapting.”
Anonymous (8th): “food, masks, no lockers, sudden room changes, covid tests, health screening.”
While Mayor Adams plans to keep schools open as much as possible, some TYWLS students disagree and have taken it upon themselves to silently protest with the Walk-Out. On January 11, 2022, at 12:00 pm, a group of TYWLS students left the school and went home as a protest against school staying open although COVID cases were past the percentile allowing schools to continue in-person learning. Students who stayed behind witnessed the protest occurring through social media with no extreme measures taken.
Although the protest was acknowledged, many MS and HS students believed that the protest may have resulted in more cases since students commuting home crowded the train stations without social distancing. Other students decided to protest outside for a few minutes and came back in for class. Many supporters have spread awareness about students' frustration with the benefits of virtual learning since many students were still in the mentality. However, in the survey when asked whether or not they would like to have virtual classes again, there were mixed preferences.
YES, we should have Virtual Learning:
“There are a lot of cases at the school, therefore making school virtual again will calm down all those cases and keep everyone safe and protected and still continue to learn at the same time.”
“Yes because then it will be easy so that the kids that live far can join the meeting on time and be in class and be able to learn.”
NO, we should have Virtual Learning:
“I think it's a lot harder to learn with remote learning because you can't see the teacher in person. Also, it's really lonely when you can see your friends every day.”
“I did not really learn well online I much prefer in person.”
“I think that it should not be virtual ever again because to really excel in school you need to have a personal relationship with your teachers. I also had a really bad experience virtually last year. It was extremely hard for me to get good grades and it strongly affected my mental health.”
“I didn't focus very much, my mind wandered a lot and it seemed like I lacked the motivation to do things, so I wouldn't want it to go virtual. However, with so many Covid-19 cases and it is a pain to commute. I also would say yes that schools should be virtual. And then there's always the thing with actually seeing people and interacting, which leads me to no for virtual. So I don't really know about my feelings about going virtual.”